Country before Crozier for Catholic Kenny
In recent months, the Taoiseach has been at the business end of a severe bludgeoning, but he hasn’t flinched
The conservative Catholic schoolteacher from Mayo stood by his sense of duty
They don’t make croziers like they used to.
Never mind the belt of one – just the cold draught from an upward swing was once enough to cow entire governments. Not any more.
In recent months, Enda Kenny has been at the business end of a severe bludgeoning, but he hasn’t flinched. If anything, pressure from the bishops – which they are entitled to exert – has merely served to strengthen his resolve.
People talk about the Taoiseach’s capacity to surprise, yesterday’s remarks from him in the Dáil being an apparent example of this. Yet Enda has been nothing if not consistent in his approach to dealing with the highly contentious Protection of Human Life during Pregnancy Bill.
There are times when he delegates, times when he infuriates and times when he steps up to the mark and leads.
His determination to uphold the separation between church and State had already become a feature of his tenure before the abortion question came centre stage.
There was no change in Enda’s attitude when Mattie McGrath tried to convince him to rethink his commitment to stewarding through this long overdue piece of legislation.
We shouldn’t have been surprised. In a little over two years as Taoiseach, Enda Kenny has notched up an impressive number of “defining” moments and “finest hours”, the latest one coming out of the blue during Leaders’ Questions yesterday morning.
The political nerds went scurrying for their history books when the Taoiseach uttered a phrase destined for the history books of the future.
“I am proud to stand here as a public representative, as a Taoiseach who happens to be a Catholic, but not a Catholic Taoiseach,” he told the Dáil, invoking the shades of devout leaders past who pledged allegiance to faith first and country second.
On an otherwise uneventful Wednesday morning in Leinster House, Kenny, without any fuss, laid down a milestone in Irish political history.
Furthermore, a Taoiseach stood in the Dáil chamber and called out the despicable behaviour of a small section of Irish society that deems it acceptable to threaten and intimidate elected representatives who do not cleave to their world view.
The House listened in silence as Enda put on the record the sort of treatment he and many of his Coalition colleagues have been subjected to ever since his Government resolved to legislate for the X case.
“I am now being branded by personnel around the country as being a murderer; that I’m going to have on my soul the death of 20 million babies. I am getting medals, scapulars, plastic foetuses, letters written in blood, telephone calls all over the system, and it’s not confined to me . . . ”
Many of the deputies behind him nodded in agreement. Enda was speaking for them too. “We’re all getting those too,” said Independent TD Finian McGrath, who had very pointedly left his seat beside Mattie McGrath and moved to another place before Mattie began to read his script.